Hearing starts on DSK's bid to get NY suit tossed

By Jennifer Peltz

Associated Press

Published: Wednesday, March 28 2012 12:40 p.m. MDT

Media assembles outside Bronx state Supreme Court in New York, for the of legal proceedings of Nafissatou Diallo against Dominique Strass-Kahn, Wednesday, March 28, 2012. The 62-year-old former chief of the International Monetary Fund was charged last year with attempted rape and other crimes after the May 14 encounter with Guinean-born hotel maid Nafissatou Diallo, but the criminal case was dropped after prosecutors lost faith in her credibility.

Richard Drew, Associated Press

NEW YORK — Dominique Strauss-Kahn's lawyers tried to persuade a judge Wednesday to throw out a hotel maid's lawsuit against the former International Monetary Fund leader, arguing that he has diplomatic immunity from a civil case that stems from the same sexual assault allegations that were dropped in criminal court last year.

"Dismissal, your honor, may seem like an unfair result to some, but it's the result the law compels," said one of Strauss-Kahn's lawyers, Amit P. Mehta.

Wednesday's hearing came as Strauss-Kahn faces fresh charges in his native France amid a prostitution investigation.

The 62-year-old diplomat, once a potential French presidential candidate, was charged last year with attempted rape and other crimes after his May 14 encounter with hotel maid Nafissatou Diallo, but the criminal case was dismissed after prosecutors lost faith in her credibility.

Still, she vowed to have her day in court and sued Strauss-Kahn.

Wednesday's hearing, the first in the lawsuit, dealt with complex laws that shield diplomats from prosecution and lawsuits in their host countries.

Strauss-Kahn's lawyers argued that Strauss-Kahn is immune under a 1947 U.N. agreement that afforded the privilege to heads of "specialized agencies," including the International Monetary Fund. Strauss-Kahn was carrying a travel document at the time that said he was entitled to those immunities, his lawyers say.

Courts "have dismissed suits just like this one on grounds of immunity," Mehta told Bronx state Supreme Court Justice Douglas McKeon before an audience that included a cadre of reporters. Neither Strauss-Kahn nor Diallo, 33, attended the hearing.

Diallo's attorneys have said Strauss-Kahn's argument is overreaching and misses the mark. They were expected to make their arguments later Wednesday.

When police pulled Strauss-Kahn from an Air France flight and arrested him, he also declared he had diplomatic immunity, but the IMF said he didn't because he was in New York on personal business — visiting his daughter. He didn't push the issue amid the criminal case that eventually dissolved in August.

Since then, Strauss-Kahn has seen his sexual behavior scrutinized internationally. On Monday, he was handed preliminary charges in France alleging he was involved in a hotel prostitution ring including prominent city figures and police in Lille.

Investigating judges questioned him for about eight hours and gave him preliminary charges of "aggravated procurement in an organized gang." Under French law, preliminary charges mean authorities have reason to believe a crime was committed but allow more time for investigation.

A judge has barred him from speaking with media until further investigation.

His French lawyer said the married Strauss-Kahn engaged in "libertine" acts but did nothing legally wrong, and is being unfairly targeted for his extramarital sex life. He's free on bail.

After the New York case, a French writer also came forward to say Strauss-Kahn tried to rape her during a 2003 interview, but Paris prosecutors said the case was too old to try.

The Associated Press generally doesn't name people who report being sexually assaulted unless they come forward publicly, as Diallo has done.

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